Dressing According to Ethnic Identity = Better Mental Health?
The other day, I was browsing the web researching different cultures' perceptions of health when I found this article. It claims that, based on the results of a 2001 study, that young people who find themselves in a culture other than the one they identify with end up suffering from fewer mental health problems as teens if they dress "according to the customs of their own ethnic group."
These findings were based on an investigation of approximately 1,000 white British and Bangladeshi students between the ages of 11 and 14 in schools in East London. These schools display some of the highest levels of population diversity in the United Kingdom. The pupils were asked about their culture, social life, and health in 2001. Then, two years later, they were surveyed again with a focus on mental health.
I see a lot of problems with this study, right off the bat. Only 1,000 students were surveyed, and only from a single region, not to mention a single culture. That's enough to discount the apparent "findings" of pretty much any study around; what they find, in effect, can't be said to apply anywhere outside of East London, and for anyone other than Bangladeshi students living in Great Britain. But let's read a little more:
Having friends from their own and other cultures, called integrated friendships, or having friends exclusively with the same culture made no difference in the mental health of the student. However, clothing choices did: those Bangladeshi students who wore traditional clothing were less likely to have problems with their mental health than those whose dress tended to mix traditional styles with British/North American tastes. In comparing the genders, females in particular showed this association.
No matter what the study found, isn't this kind of limiting? It upset me to think they're disseminating this information – "dress like your own kind, and you'll suffer less." It just has a weird ring to it. And what about multicultural people, who come from many backgrounds? Which ethnic identity are they supposed to choose?
If you want to read more about this study, check out the article in full here. I just wanted to share because it gave me pause, but I'm not sure I can fully express why.
What do you guys think? In particular, anyone from a cultural background that differs from the one in which they live now – what do YOU think? Is it more beneficial to your mental health to integrate into your current culture, or pay homage to the culture you feel you originate from? Is there a way to strike a balance between the two?